Nov 16, 2019; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones tight end Chase Allen (11) carries the American Flag on to the field before their game with the Texas Longhorns at Jack Trice Stadium. The Cyclones beat the Longhorns 23 to 21. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
Iowa State tight end Chase Allen once threw a javelin farther than any Missouri prep ever had.
Cyclones safety Greg Eisworth was a two-way star at South Grand Prairie (Texas) High School, racking up more than 2,000 yards rushing and passing.
Both are senior leaders now, hoping to turn the program’s recent spate of close losses into a memorable and historic final run through the Big 12.
“Chase kind of hit on it,” Eisworth said when asked about ISU’s narrow setbacks last season. “It’s really just details and precision. That’s really been our focus this offseason — consolidating our calls and just really making sure we know what we’re doing. Checks, adjustments, motions, shifts — doing all that stuff and then executing. It’s just something that we’re trying to focus in on day in and day out and, you know, hopefully, this year will be a different result.”
The Cyclones finished 7-6 last season and in a three-way tie in the conference standings. Three of those losses came by a combined four points. Two more were settled by seven and 10 points.
For Eisworth and Allen, flipping the script in tight games remains the difference-maker in terms of ascending from good to great.
“That’s the main thing we’ve been looking at this offseason,” Allen said. “We probably played the closest games in the country last season — we lost so many games at the end. And that’s what it is. It’s the end, it’s the details that we’ve been stressing this offseason. I think we have the right group in place and we’re taking advantage of this and I think we’ll see that this year where we’re able to win that edge in places we weren’t able to last year.”
Simply being and staying healthy is a great start.
Allen was struck by a car late in fall camp of his freshman season. His wounds required 103 stitches — and then he was stricken with the mumps and meningitis.
An array of injuries followed after Allen began showing promise in his redshirt freshman season. He’s relatively healthy now — but feeling good amid the COVID-19 pandemic in a virtual bubble remains a tenuous proposition.
So far, so good, though.
“We’re ready to roll,” Allen said of the Cyclones’ top trio of tight ends — him, Charlie Kolar and Dylan Soehner. “Just through these first few days of camp, we’ve been able to take advantage of a lot of those mismatches on linebackers and safeties. We’re learning the more intricate parts of being tight ends and I think it’s going to be a really exciting year for us — hopefully, we can all stay healthy.”
The same goes for Eisworth, who played through shoulder pain much of last season. The former four-star recruit and JUCO transfer managed to sideline the pain enough to tie for the team lead in passes defended (10), despite missing one full game and another half.
“All it did was just force me to communicate more, be more vocal,” said Eisworth, a preseason All-Big 12 selection. “And you know, I think, with every situation, there’s always a positive to pull out of it. And so, you know, I never looked at it as anything negative. It was just something that I had to do, had to go through, and control what I can control, which was my attitude and how I presented myself every day. So it was just another challenge for me. Something else that I had to get through and it only made me stronger in the end. Times like this, it’s a little tough, but that’s what we stress is just bonding and being together as a team, even though we do have to stay apart. Getting on calls with people, just talking making sure everybody’s good. But just another little bump in the road. Not a big deal. Just finding my way to maneuver through things and keep pushing.”
That “roll with it” approach will serve Allen, Eisworth and several other seniors — including healed up defensive end JaQuan Bailey — well as a season unlike any other swings into view with the Sept. 12 opener against Louisiana.
The term “social distancing” has entered the lexicon. Masks are ubiquitous. Starting the season is one thing, but finishing it — as seniors — is obviously vastly more important, now more than ever.
“It’s something we’ve all learned,” Allen said. “The things that we thought would always be around aren’t guaranteed — and that’s for any part of your life. It’s helped us learn to stay present. Am I going to miss having all the fans at Jack Trice Stadium? Of course. Are fans going to miss coming to the games? Of course. It just makes me value those memories that I have like K-State two years ago with everyone getting their cell phone lights out unprompted — it makes it so much more special to me.”